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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 June, 2004, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Mid-East reform plan: Your views
US President George W Bush [right] with Iraqi interim President Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawer
The US-backed leadership in Iraq faces tough challenges

BBC News Online and BBCArabic.com have received hundreds of e-mails from readers in the Middle East commenting on US President George W Bush's plan for promoting democratic change in the Middle East.

On Wednesday leaders at the G8 summit approved a watered-down version of the plan, which says the reforms should be accompanied by efforts to reach a settlement in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The leaders also said that each country would "reach its own conclusions about the pace and scope of change."

Most readers overwhelmingly supported the notion that the region needed reform, but there was deep scepticism about the US acting as the agent for achieving it.

Loss of values?

Several readers said the plan did not take into account the many cultures and peoples of the region and questioned whether a form of "one size fits all" democracy would work for such disparate nations.

Current double-standard US policies have deterred us from listening and trusting the West
Abdullah Mawas, Aleppo, Syria

"Reform is a must for the Middle East," said Yemeni reader Abdalkader Hamou.

"However, each country needs a distinctive type of reform that [will] suit its tribal or partisan circumstances."

"Is it not arrogant for one small group of people to assume that they know best and should therefore be able to dictate what forms of government other countries should have?" asked reader Linda al-Ansari from the United Arab Emirates.

"What is good for some people may not be perceived as good by others. Trying to understand and respect the differences seems to be a better place to start looking to create a safer and more peaceful world."

Some readers also expressed fears that the adoption of Western-style democracy would lead to the loss of their own cultures' values.

"Bush does not want real democracy in the Middle East because real democracy would mean that Middle East countries would become Islamic-ruled countries, which the US doesn't want," said Ali from Sidi Hajjaj in Morocco.

"The US simply want the Middle East to take over Western values and to lose theirs."

Other were even more blunt.

"Mr Bush should reform himself," wrote one Saudi Arabian reader.

Arab leaders' 'excuses'

Several readers who welcomed the new plan said the real obstacle was the unwillingness of Arab governments to grant their people power.

I don't care if reform comes from outside or from inside the Middle East, as long as it starts quickly... we are good people, we just need to be given a chance to progress and achieve
Mamdouh Wadie, Cairo, Egypt

"The American initiative is very beneficial for the region - why don't we adopt it?" BBCArabic.com reader Salah al-Fadli from Kuwait asked.

"Unfortunately, some Arab governments are using the conflicts in Iraq and Palestine as an excuse to delay reforms and continue oppressing their people."

Gmaleddin Ali, a BBCArabic.com reader from Alexandria in Egypt, said the people of the Middle East "welcomed" the US initiative but "Arab rulers and the cronies who surround them are refusing to let go of power."

"The only way to implement reform is by external pressure," he added.

"We have been hearing talk about reform for more than 50 years, but have seen nothing."

Issue of trust

Others, while approving the initiative, expressed misgivings about the US government and its foreign policies.

"Almost everybody in the world likes to see democracy and freedom spreading all over the globe, including the Middle East," said reader Abdullah Mawas from Aleppo in Syria.

"However, many considerations related to Mr Bush's initiative should be taken into account: cultural differences, hypocrisy of the American administration, injustice in the Middle East crisis and ignoring the Palestinians' rights.

"The initiative should not be imposed on the people of that area," he added.

"As a non-Muslim Arab, I think an imposed reform by the West is an effective approach for a brighter future in the Arab world," said Rabih from Beirut in Lebanon.

"But current double-standard US policies have deterred us from listening and trusting the West."

However, despite disagreements over how to implement such wide-ranging and controversial reforms, almost all readers said they felt there was a need for change.

"I don't care if reform comes from outside or from inside the Middle East, as long as it starts quickly," said BBCArabic.com reader Mamdouh Wadie from Cairo in Egypt.

"We are in desperate need for reform. Anyone who does not see this is blind.

"We are good people, we just need to be given a chance to progress and achieve."

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